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This presentation is meant to assist a practicing attorney in allocating a scarce resource his time to those who will benefit the most clients with meritorious cases. As the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois acknowledged, the law of defamation in general has spawned a morass of case law in which consistency and harmony have long ago disappeared.
Any practicing attorney who does not regularly handle defamation cases will necessarily have to understand the existing case law to successfully handle such a claim. The following is an outline of the matters that should be considered before the decision is made to invest a great deal of time in a defamation case.
Nature of the Tort of Defamation A statement is defamatory if it impeaches a person's reputation and thereby lowers that person in the estimation of the community or deters a third party from associating with that person.
In order to make out a claim for defamation, a plaintiff must set forth sufficient facts showing that the defendant made a false statement concerning the plaintiff, that there was an unprivileged publication of the defamatory statement to a third party by the defendant, and that the plaintiff was damaged.
The Telegraph, Ill. At common law, there were four categories of statements that were considered "defamatory per se. Words that impute the commission of a criminal offense; 2. Words that impute infection with a loathsome communicable disease; 3.
Words that impute an inability to perform or want of integrity in the discharge of duties of office or employment; and 4. Words that prejudice a party, or impute lack of ability, in his or her trade, profession or business.
News America Publications, Inc. The Slander and Libel Act has added to these classifications by providing that false accusations of fornication and adultery are actionable as a matter of law.
If a defamatory statement does not fit within the categories listed above, it still may state a cause of action for defamation per quod. A cause of action for defamation per quod may be brought in two circumstances.
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First, a per quod claim is appropriate where the defamatory character of the statement is not apparent on its face and resort to extrinsic circumstances is necessary to demonstrate its injurious meaning.
To pursue a per quod action in such circumstances, a plaintiff must plead and prove extrinsic facts to explain the defamatory meaning of the statement. Second, a per quod action is appropriate where a statement is defamatory on its face but does not fall within one of the limited categories of statements that are actionable per se.
In this type of per quod action, the plaintiff need not plead extrinsic facts because the defamatory character of the statement is apparent on its face.
In any per quod action, the plaintiff must plead and prove special damages to recover. Although not strictly defamation, there may be a causes of action for false statements that relate to property or services.
If one publishes a false and malicious statement which disparages title to real property and that statement results in special damages, one has a cause of action for slander of title. Defenses to Claims for Defamation While it is relatively easy to state the elements of defamation, the real difficulty arises when one has to consider the defenses to a defamation claim.
These defenses are numerous and sometimes difficult to comprehend given the confusion that appears in some of the appellate decisions. When faced with a potential client complaining of defamation, one should consider the following list of defenses to determine whether a case has merit.
Truth As every first year law student knows, truth is a defense to a defamation action. However, in most cases, an alleged defamatory statement will not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Most likely, some of the alleged defamatory statement will not be totally accurate. However, courts have said that "substantial truth" is sufficient to allow a defendant to prevail A defendant need only show the truth of the "gist" or "sting" of the defamatory material.
In Lemons, a shoplifter pulled a knife when two managerial employees attempted to keep him from leaving the store. He slashed at the arm of one of the employees and cut through the shirt and caused a minor wound on the arm. The other employee suffered a minor cut on his hand when he grabbed the blade while trying to take the knife away from the plaintiff.
The newspaper published an article that stated plaintiff had "stabbed" the two employees, that he had been found guilty of stabbing two "security guards" and that plaintiff had received a 15 year sentence for knifing guards. Although the plaintiff contended that the articles were inaccurate and false because the employees were not stabbed and they were not security guards, the court found the newspaper articles to be substantially true and dismissed the plaintiff's claim.
Chronicle Publishing Company, Ill. While substantial truth is normally a question for the jury, where no reasonable jury could find that substantial truth could not be established, the question is one of law.
Therefore, the trial court can dismiss a claim based on the substantial truth defense without an evidentiary hearing.
Cianci, supra; Lemons, supra.Bill was born and raised in Peoria, IL. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. degree in Government. He received his law degree (JD) at the University of Iowa graduating with honors. With undergraduate degree programs from which to choose, including part-time and adjunct (joint) majors, students at Northwestern are bound to find an area of study that aligns with their interests and curiosities.
Innovative programs such as cognitive science or materials science and engineering are offered alongside artistic options like voice & opera or creative writing. Estate Planning Attorney | Serving Peoria, IL Those seeking legal help with Estate Planning can reach out to James R Standard Law Office, a local practice representing people in Peoria, Illinois.
Submitted by Joan Pearson Peoria Journal Star. Mitylene Grover. ELMWOOD, IL. - Mitylene Grover, 88, of Elmwood died at a.m. yesterday at Galena Park Home in Peoria Heights.
Motions in limine are used to obtain advance rulings from the court on the admissibility of evidence. Hearings on the motions are to be held outside of the presence of the jury. Such motions may be to exclude or include evidence. We would like to show you a description here but the site won’t allow us.